16th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest
Animal: Prairie Dogs
Location: South Dakota, United States of America
Experience the energy these Prairie Dogs possess as you look into the photo depicting their personality. Prairie Dogs are one of the most interesting animals on the planet. Just like humans, Prairie Dogs are extremely social animals and they live in massive towns. To make their towns more local, Prairie Dogs form and live in tight- knit family groups called coteries. Gazing out at a Prairie Dog town, or just at one coterie, all you hear are little chirp sounds. These animals might be cute, but they do not lack intelligence. Prairie Dogs have one of the most complex languages surpassing whales, dolphins, and primates. The only animal with a more complex language are us, humans.
On the scenic plains of South Dakota, I was visiting an underground city where Prairie Dogs lived. As I approached the town I started to inch my way closer and closer crawling on my stomach. As time passed, I finally crawled to a elegantly elevated small hill where a family of Prairie Dogs resided. As the sun started to set, the family of prairie dogs enjoyed sunning themselves next to their home entrance.
There was something wrong. Suddenly, one Prairie Dog stood up on its hind legs and fixated on the natural grass blowing in the wind. After a short period of time, a Coyote revealed itself in a clearing about a quarter mile from the town. To alert the town of danger multiple chirps were exchanged. As the Coyote gazed at the town, it then turned back and started to run away. As the Coyote was leaving, the Prairie Dog on the righthand side of the image jumped up in the air and vocalized a wee-oo sound giving the all- clear message. This behavior is called the jump- yip. Just like the wave at a sports event, this behavior is contagious and all other Prairie Dogs in the town mimicked the jump- yip. This moment shows why Mother Nature is truly the greatest artist of us all.
© Thomas Chadwick.
All rights reserved.
||July 4, 2018, 8:42 p.m.
||Canon EOS-1D X Mark II